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Cloverdale Comments - April 2016


Cloverdale Comments - April 2016

by Carol Russell

“. . . I think about City Council, I look at the men and women - these were people who just wanted to be a part of the community and give something back. . . ” —Congressman Brad Wenstrup

Hi! This is Reece. In this current series of columns we’re going to find out about the people who make our city work from the staff that greets people as they enter City Hall to the landscapers and public works pros caring for the facilities and grounds, to the managers, administrators, and those who keep us safe. Who are these people? Why Cloverdale? What do they like about our community, its people, and their job? What is their vision for our town? 

We are going to start with the most visible – the City Council – and work on into the other less well known areas of Cloverdale’s operations. Since Carol is a Councilmember, I (Reece) am taking the lead to maintain impartiality. The next two columns will be devoted to getting to know the City Councilmembers. 

I spoke with Mayor MaryAnn Brigham, Vice Mayor Augustine “Gus” Wolter, Council Members Carol Russell, Joseph “Joe” Palla, and Robert “Bob” Cox each came from different places with Cloverdale as their last stop – Philadelphia (Gus), New York via Marin County (Carol), Danville to Sebastopol (Bob), Wisconsin (MaryAnne), and from several places in the Bay Area, the most recent being Healdsburg (Joe). 

These five people arrived by different routes reflecting different perspectives on some issues, but there are also the commonalities creating a foundation of trust and respect.

They arrived in Cloverdale and immediately felt at home. Bob had a young kid say “Good morning!” as he and his wife climbed out of the car to walk down Cloverdale Boulevard. Carol and her spouse were driving into town to look at a house for sale. As she turned the corner by Ray’s, a gentleman looked up at her and smiled. Joe came up to visit family and liked the close feeling of the community. Gus and MaryAnn stopped in Cloverdale as they traveled 101, felt an immediate comfort, and knew they were home.

They all love their adopted community with its friendly, rural, small town charm far away from the rat race. They see Cloverdale as a town with a “strong sense of community” in “one of the most beautiful places in the world” as expressed by MaryAnne. It is home and the people living here are family.

Gus is still taken by the way the community helps and supports each other and plays a part in its own growth and evolution. A young woman gets cancer and needs help with medical bills and living expenses – the community raised the funds. The movie theater has a new owner needing a stronger financial base – once again, funds are raised locally.

The Council members are proud that the citizens take an interest in various happenings, changes, and projects around town. Citizens show up at Council meetings to express their opinions. As with most families, they do not always agree; they do not always have the whole picture or have all the information; they do not always see the end result as the same; but, they are there sharing what they do see and want. They are engaged and as with most families, each “matters as a person” even with the disagreements.

Then it comes to the hard decisions – the ones that the Councilmembers have to make.

Each agrees the courage to be part of a team making these decisions and leading even when it is unpopular is an important quality to bring to the table. But the observation was to not personalize what others say as the discussion progresses and opinions are expressed. This was the number one quality needed to work well as a Councilmember. In other words, having a “thick skin” and an open mind is most important. 

When it comes to working together and making decisions, Joe shares that the five Councilmembers are “happy and work well together” with “no self agendas” as they “try to make the city better”. These are the prerequisites to making thoughtful, hard decisions as a City Councilmember.

Next month, I will take a more in-depth look at what these five people do for our city.